Ted Powers, Ph.D.
I am a sociocultural anthropologist whose research focuses on the dynamics of health, politics, and social inequality in post-apartheid South Africa. Building on conceptual approaches from medical anthropology, the anthropology of transnationalism, political economy, and African studies, my work focuses on the politics of health and social inequality in post-apartheid South Africa. Currently, my research program consists of three projects, which focus on the political economy of HIV/AIDS treatment access, austerity and post-apartheid public health policy, and survival strategies employed by township residents amid material deprivation, trauma, and infectious disease.
My research on the South African epidemic engages with anthropological debates on transnationalism, social movements, and the state in assessing the campaign for HIV/AIDS treatment access. My 2020 book Sustaining Life: AIDS Activism in South Africa (Penn Press) analyzes the actions of actors, organizations, and institutions to understand how social outcomes are produced relative to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Adopting a process-oriented approach, policy and health outcomes are contextualized as emerging out of complex socio-political dynamics that unfolded at the metropolitan, provincial, and national levels.
Currently, I am researching the dynamics of austerity, public health policy, and health social movements in post-apartheid South Africa. Here, I analyze how a rights-based alliance of health activists, community-based organizations, trade unions, and health professionals united to contest the closure of public sector beds in South Africa’s Western Cape province. These social dynamics arose in response to the development of public health policy that built upon political principles introduced via post-apartheid austerity, and were carried forward by state policy actors across institutional levels. My research on South African public health politics analyzes how interpersonal networks and political alliances can either enable or limit the circulation of neoliberal policy principles across space, time, and the levels of the state.
An ongoing element of my research program is a project analyzing the effects of global health initiatives on poor and working-class communities in the township of Khayelitsha. Analyzing the life trajectories of community health activists along with the survival strategies developed by black South Africans in response to colonization, segregation, and apartheid, the project aims to highlight the modes of social organization that inform everyday life in urban communities amid material deprivation, trauma, and infectious disease.
My research has been published in journals including Critique of Anthropology, Human Organization, the Journal of Modern African Studies, and the Journal of Southern African Studies.
- Medical Anthropology
- Political Economy of Health
- Anthropology of Policy
- African Studies
- Powers, Theodore. 2020. Sustaining Life: AIDS Activism in South Africa. Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
- Powers, Theodore and Jimmy Pieterse. 2023. Vacillating Vaccines: Responses to COVID-19 in the United States and South Africa. Anthropology Southern Africa.
- Powers, Theodore. 2023. On Power and Policy in Post-Colonial Africa: An Introduction. Journal of Contemporary African Studies https://doi.org/10.1080/02589001.2022.2066636
- Powers, Theodore. 2022. Austerity. In A Handbook of Economic Anthropology, Third Edition. Edited by James Carrier, pp.461-472. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
- Powers, Theodore. 2022. Uncertain Horizons: COVID-19, Debt, and the Future of Public Health in Africa. Africa: Year in Review 2021. Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.
- Hong, Insu, Bradley Wilson, Thomson Gross, Jamison Conley, and Theodore Powers. 2022. Challenging terrains: socio-spatial analysis of Primary Health Care Access Disparities in West Virginia. Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy: 1-21.
- Powers, Theodore and Jeremy Rayner. 2021. Pathogenic Politics: Authoritarianism, Inequality, and Capitalism in the COVID-19 Crisis. Open Anthropological Research 1(1): 159-166
- Powers, Theodore. 2021. People, Policy, History: Citizenship and Black Urban Communities in South Africa. Journal of Contemporary African Studies DOI: 10.1080/02589001.2021.1950911
- Powers, Theodore. 2021. Authoritarian violence, public health, and the necropolitical state: Engaging the South African response to COVID-19. Open Anthropological Research 1(1): 60-72.
- Powers, Theodore. 2021. People are the State. Africa is a Country.
- Powers, Theodore. 2020. Challenging Inaction, Sustaining Life: South African HIV/AIDS Activism and the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Penn Press Log.
- Powers, Theodore, and Theodoros Rakopoulos. 2019. The Anthropology of Austerity: An Introduction. Focaal 83: 1-12.
- Powers, Theodore. 2019. Echoes of Austerity: Policy, Temporality, and Public Health in South Africa. Focaal 83: 13-24.
- Powers, Theodore. 2018. On Austerity and Structural Adjustment: Tracing Continuity and Difference Across Space and Time. In The Global Life of Austerity: Comparing Beyond Europe. Edited by Theodoros Rakopoulos, pp. 91-102. New York: Berghahn Press.
- ANTH:2100 - Anthropology and Contemporary World Problems
- ANTH:2103/GHS:2000 - Introduction to Global Health
- ANTH:2136 - Urban Anthropology
- ANTH/GHS:2182 - Africa: Health and Society
- ANTH:3123 - Making a Living: Perspectives on Economic Anthropology
- ANTH:3160/GHS:3720 - Contemporary Issues in Global Health
- Sociocultural Anthropology
- Medical Anthropology